Ford poised for defeat on Sheppard transit plan
It appears Mayor Rob Ford’s plan to extend the Sheppard subway into Scarborough will go down to defeat on Wednesday.
That’s when council will decide how transit will be expanded along Sheppard Avenue. Ford wants a subway extension that would link Don Mills station with Scarborough Town Centre; his opponents prefer surface light rail along the route.
Although light rail is cheaper and will therefore mean a much longer length of track, Ford and his allies fear it will cause congestion by competing for road space with vehicle traffic.
A total of $8.4 billion in provincial funds will be gobbled up by transit plans approved by council in February that includes light rail along Eglinton and Finch.
That provincial money, however, isn’t enough to pay for those new LRT lines and a Sheppard subway. Ford has suggested a handful of ways to make up the difference — such as public-private partnerships and fees charged to developers. All appear to have little traction.
Build 1 or 2 stations for now, Ford says
Ford has proposed building two stations that would extend the Sheppard line to Victoria Park.
He told a group of subway supporters on Monday that the important thing was to get started, even if it meant building only a station or two.
"[LRT supporters] say compromise," Ford said. "Compromise to them means increase taxes, have user fees, have all this other stuff. We can look at all that stuff, but we can't look at anything until we start building one station at a time. We have the billion dollars. Let's get moving on it."
As CBC Toronto city hall reporter Jamie Strashin reported Tuesday, the lack of a funding plan means Ford’s vision for Sheppard appears doomed for defeat.
"He’s been unable to produce the business plan to say how he would pay for it," Strashin said. "It was the business case that many of the key middle councillors were looking for that didn’t materialize."
Ana Bailao and Mary-Margaret McMahon are among the councillors who said they could bring themselves to support a Sheppard subway if the business plan made sense.
"Shovels in the ground is not good enough," Bailao said on Tuesday. "We're not going to find a gold mine once we start digging to pay for the subway."
'Show us the money'
McMahon said she's been waiting for a plan for a month.
"Show us the money," she said. "I'm still waiting. It's the 11th hour. I'm very frustrated, and this has happened over and over again."
Ford has said repeatedly that Scarborough voters prefer subways over light rail. He was elected in November 2010 on a platform that included support for new subways.
Ford scrapped the Transit City LRT plan shortly after taking office, but in February council endorsed a pro-LRT plan. Council's decision on Sheppard was deferred to give an expert panel time to study transit options for the corridor.
Released Friday, the panel's report recommended light rail as the best option for Sheppard given the cost constraints and population density along the proposed route.
The panel reported that the city could opt for a subway on Sheppard, but only by adding a percentage point to property taxes and devoting that money exclusively to subway construction.
Ford said new taxes were not an option and called the report "biased."
With files from CBC's Jamie Strashin